Merchants and Farmers Appoints Leach Chairman Emeritus, CEO Hughes Chosen As Next Chairman Of The Board.
LEESVILLE, LA – The board of directors of Merchants & Farmers Bank has announced that chairman and long-time board member Claude “Buddy” Leach has become chairman emeritus and will remain an active member of the board.
Leach served on the independent community bank’s board for nearly five decades and was instrumental in its success. “I am extremely proud of the stability and growth of this financial institution and look forward to its continued impact as a pioneer in banking technology,” commented Leach. In the 47 years that Leach served Merchants & Farmers, the 93-year-old Leesville-based institution has grown from $ 18 million to over $ 470 million and has expanded to eight locations in the West and the southwest Louisiana.
The board has appointed CEO and chairman Ken Hughes, a 40-year veteran of the bank and a 25-year board member, as the new chairman of the board. Hughes will remain CEO and chairman of the bank.
David Williams, a member of the board of directors for thirty years, has been chosen as vice-chairman of the board. Williams attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and is an employee, partner, owner, and investor in various business and agricultural businesses in Louisiana and Texas. Hughes has been CEO and President of Merchants & Farmers since 2002 and during this time led the strategic development of the bank, introducing technology including mobile and online banking, digital wallets, multi-function debit and credit cards and the remote deposit. “I am pleased to represent a bank that has played a vital role in our community by reinvesting with the purchase of bonds as well as commercial and consumer loans. We take our responsibilities very seriously, as evidenced by our team during the coronavirus pandemic and back to back-to-back hurricanes, ”said Hughes.
As vice president in the early 1990s, Hughes led the development of the bank’s website, one of the first for a Louisiana financial institution. He started at the bank as a summer clerk in the 1970s in the bookkeeping service, and has worked in virtually every industry during his career. A native of Leesville, Hughes is a member of the Louisiana Bankers Association and is a graduate of Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking and McNeese State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Business Education.
Leach served in the Louisiana State Legislature representing the Parish of Vernon for 16 years and has served on the Boards of Directors of the Calcasieu / Cameron Rice Production Association, Calcasieu Farm Bureau, Calcasieu Parish and Louisiana Cattlemen’s Associations, Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal. Louisiana, the Inner Circle Advisory Committee of the President of McNeese University, and is a former district governor of Lions International.
While serving in the United States Congress, Leach was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee. It was on this committee that the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital was brought to the attention of the Surgeon General and the following year it was included in the Surgeon General’s budget. This facility has greatly improved the ability to assist all of our active and retired military personnel. In 2018, Leach was appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve on the Early Childhood Care and Education Commission.
In operation since 1928, Merchants & Farmers Bank is an independent community bank headquartered in Leesville, Louisiana, with eight full-service locations in six cities. Among the first banks in Louisiana to establish online banking services, Merchants & Farmers offers a variety of banking products and services in the western and southwestern regions of the state.